How to Build a Cheese & Charcuterie Board
March 18, 2024
How to Build a Cheese & Charcuterie Board
March 18, 2024
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Wine Director John Kay on the Wonderful World of Wine

by John Kay & Katie Glaudell

John getting ready for a weekly Saturday tasting at Marché

Marché welcomed John Kay into the newly-created position of Wine Director in September of 2023, and he’s been making great strides with our wine programs and selections ever since. We enjoy his dad jokes and sunny disposition, but we especially benefit from his unique experiences as a well-traveled wine man and flavor aficionado. He’s got so much enthusiasm and knowledge to share, and is always ready to wax poetical on wine. So please pour yourself a glass of your favorite libation, sit back, and enjoy our interview to get to know John and Marché’s mission with wines a little better. Take it away John!


What is it about wine?

It’s delicious. It’s magical. It’s mysterious. It’s confusing. It’s intimidating. It’s delightful. It is so many things. Wine has a recorded history dating back to 6000 BC tied to culture, religion, and daily life. Wine has been a symbol of prestige, but also a common drink on a peasant table. Wine accompanies grand celebrations as easily as Tuesday night gatherings on a patio.

How did you first get started in the world of wine?

For me, wine has been part of my life’s journey through different cultures, foods, and people. I’ve had the fortune to live in several wine-producing countries around the world–notably Slovenia, South Africa, Greece, and Morocco. In each of these countries, I developed relationships with wine makers, even helping with a harvest in Slovenia.

I’ve never really “studied” wine. Instead, I’ve learned about it from experiences, talking with wine makers, absorbing information from wine professionals, reading, and drinking. I learned about the science and the art of viticulture and winemaking directly from the ones doing the work.

How do you choose what wines to stock for Marché?

John with vintner Lorenzo Muslia of Painted Fields & Andis Wines

I approach the wine business in much the same way. I taste many wines each week from sales reps trying to win a spot on my shelf. There are so many good wines available to us, it’s truly an embarrassment of riches. If I said “yes” to every good wine I tasted, the store would be floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall wine bottles. 

The wines I decide to bring in are wines that will help deliver an experience for our customers – perfect matches for holiday feasts or certain foods, wines with stories or history, wines with distinctive characteristics, wines whose value and quality exceed their price. That’s part of the benefit of smaller wine shops as compared to grocery stores or big chain wine retailers – each bottle has a purpose on our shelf.

We don’t have the space to have ho-hum wines, and our customers deserve and expect more than ho-hum wines. When I help a customer pick a wine, I want to help build their experience. Sometimes it is as simple and straightforward as something easy and yummy to share with a friend on the back deck. Other times, it’s finding pairings for a multi-course special dinner. Whatever the occasion and purpose, my role is to understand what the customer is looking for, try to discern their preferences and tastes, and recommend a wine accordingly.

What is your favorite aspect of being Marché’s Wine Director?

A favorite part of my job is developing relationships with regular customers. I love it when a regular comes in and I can say “Oh! I’ve got something right up your alley for you to try!” I feel fortunate that in my relatively short time at Marche (7 months now), I have several of those customers. Again, this is part of the extra value of a small wine shop. 

I also enjoy sharing tastes of wines with customers at our Saturday tastings. Obviously, tasting a wine is an easy way to decide if you like a wine. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to share information that helps customers discern their preferences and tastes. For me, I can recall how tastings even 30+ years ago played a role in my understanding and enjoyment of wine. I tasted my first real Champagne at a small wine store in Northern Virginia around the age of 26. That opened my eyes to a world beyond grocery store bubbles. My first “ah-ha” moment in food and wine pairing was at a Washington DC Italian restaurant about the same time – the fireworks went off because the food and the wine were each elevated by the other.

Sip, Taste, and Be Merry

Wine is indeed magical, delicious, and delightful. It doesn’t need to be intimidating or confusing – that’s where my colleagues and I come in. We enjoy wine. We enjoy pairings of cheese and food and wine. And we love to talk about it. Come on in, have a sip and let’s chat. Salute!